Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly

The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world. 

NOTE: There will (hopefully) be four books reviewed this week. Each will cover either the space race or the future of space travel. I wanted to start the week with Hidden Figures. It just seemed like the perfect book as it covers the development of NASA’s predecessor, NACA, and the unique people behind the aeronautical advancements from WWII to the 1960s. Enjoy!

Hidden Figures has been on my TBR since the day it came out. I love the history of NASA, I love reading about science, and I enjoy reading the achievements of a semi-forgotten group of people. It was my type of book! And yet…I hadn’t picked it up and finished it until last weekend. Why? A few things:

1. I was worried it would turn into a history of the Civil Rights movement. There is nothing wrong with that topic, but I wanted what the book promised…super smart women doing amazing things!

2. I was worried it would be an unintelligible information dump. This is a valid worry. So many nonfiction stories are ruined because the story is downed by a sea of data.

3. And lastly….I’ve really been struggling to read nonfiction. This year seems to be my comeback!

I should have read Hidden Figures a long time ago. It was great! These women were absolutely amazing! Shetterly’s book was informative without being overwhelming; it was incredibly organized and flowed for a perfect read. The story discusses the impact of many women but focused on three central computers, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine G. Johnson, and their contributions at NACA/NASA.

The most impactful aspect of Hidden Figures was how these women tackled their social hurdles in the same calm and professional manner they approached their work. My biggest worry was Hidden Figures would quickly become an expose on the Civil Rights movement; however, Shetterly just delivered the facts in a seamless documentation of extraordinary lives. These women managed their work, the raising of their children, the push for equal education, and the impact of the Civil Rights movement on their daily activities with a stoic determination. They steady broke down social barriers while diligently working to build up their community. They were ‘just doing their job’ and the humility and kindness of these women cover these pages.

Hidden Figures was meticulously organized and written in an easy to understand style, but it was also dry. The story was engaging and I couldn’t put it down, but I felt that a little extra time spent on developing a showing instead of telling style would only draw readers deeper into the lives of these computers. Her writing just wasn’t strong, but I see her quickly developing into an excellent nonfiction author. Also, I mentioned earlier how Shetterly fluidly mixed details of the Civil Rights movement in seamlessly with all other aspects of the women’s lives. But, this wasn’t necessarily the case during the last few chapters, where we read of Katherine’s involvement with calculating the reentry of John Glenn’s orbital flight. The information was quickly presented before Shetterly transitioned to the negative social responses to the cost of the space program and the lament over the lack of an African-American astronaut. Valid points, but I was craving more details concerning Katherine’s personal experience with the Mercury flight. I was hoping to hear if she felt apprehensive, or even proud of her contribution. And it just wasn’t there. This is thankfully the only negative thoughts I have on Hidden Figures.

I have yet to see the movie, but will be watching it later this week. It seems as if the movie combines decades of segregation and racial tension and presents them as all occurring during the Mercury-Atlas 6 flight…which was not in the book. I just hope it is an accurate representation of how these women overcame social hurdles with intelligence, grace, and poise.

Hidden Figures was a wonderful book that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. The brilliance of Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary has pushed me to learn more about other scientific achievements. Let me know what you thought of Hidden Figures!

Lindsay

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Empire of Blue Water

Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign
by Stephan Talty

He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean.

Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English became legendary. His daring attacks on the mighty Spanish Empire on land and at sea determined the fates of kings and queens, and his victories helped shape the destiny of the New World.

Morgan gathered disaffected European sailors and soldiers, hard-bitten adventurers, runaway slaves, and vicious cutthroats, and turned them into the most feared army in the Western Hemisphere. Sailing out from the English stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica, “the wickedest city in the New World,” Morgan and his men terrorized Spanish merchant ships and devastated the cities where great riches in silver, gold, and gems lay waiting. His last raid, a daring assault on the fabled city of Panama, helped break Spain’s hold on the Americas forever.

Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler—including the notorious pirate L’Ollonais, the soul-tortured King Philip IV of Spain, and Thomas Modyford, the crafty English governor of Jamaica—Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the passions and the violence of the age of exploration and empire.

2019 has found me really wanting to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy. Not really a weird reading trend; I did take an Archaeology of Piracy class during my Undergrad studies. It’s just last year I preferred fiction (Pirates Latitudes and Daughter of the Pirate King) and this year I am craving nonfiction. So I decided to finish Empire of Blue Water.

Note: Empire of Blue Water is one of the 2018 stragglers I needed to finish.

My overall reaction to this novel was…meh. The good thing is Empire of Blue Water provides so much detailed information. The bad thing is Empire of Blue Water provides soooooooo much detailed information.

The novel details the life of Henry Morgan and the golden age of Caribbean piracy. Readers are provided a detailed history of Henry Morgan’s upbringing, his life of privateering (let’s be real…it was piracy), and his transition to plantation owner and civil servant. The text also provides an generalized account of the lives of pirate crew, which works as both an educational and comparison tool. And I was shocked to learn that Morgan specialized in ‘over land’ battles instead of epic battles at sea. Empire of Blue Water was well organized, deftly presented, and relatively engaging.

And yet I struggled to get through the audiobook. It took me a solid four months to read! The problem was the book talked about everything that influenced Caribbean piracy: Spanish politics, English politics, the varieties of Christianity, the sugar crop, the silver trade, all the pirate captains and their impact on the Caribbean. EVERYTHING. There were just so many people covered that it was often difficult to keep them all separated in my mind. I consistently found myself drifting off, especially when the author spent an entire chapter dedicated to the health and superstitious qualities of the Spanish monarchy. I know, I know; this information is important in understanding all aspects of the golden age of piracy. The story just dragged, and I was a tad embarrassed at how relieved I was upon finishing it.

Empire of Blue Water was ok. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Morgan and the Golden Age of piracy. Just be prepared for the information dump and know you won’t really get to read about epic sea battles.

I think my next pirate reads will be X Marks the Spot and the Under the Black Flag. Let me know your favorite pirate fiction and nonfiction!

Lindsay

The Diamond Formula

The Diamond Formula
by Alina Simone

A possible genius, a smidgen of madness, a twist of science, and an invention that very nearly changed the world—all collide in a giddy, unbelievably true mystery set in turn-of-the-century Paris.

In 1905, inventor Henri Lemoine claimed that he’d uncovered the secret to a coveted alchemy: creating diamonds in a laboratory. It intrigued a host of investors, and it soon made Lemoine an international celebrity. Then he disappeared.

The Diamond Formula is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

The Diamond Formula was the second story I read in the Inventions series; it was also my least favorite. Now, that doesn’t mean this review is going to be negative. I just don’t typically enjoy stories about con-men and that is probably the nicest way to describe Henri Lemoine. I just couldn’t make myself care about his life or the outcome of his actions. And well, it is hard to get past that when the audiobook is only an hour long.

The Diamond Formula discusses the initial attempts to create artificial diamonds and covers the development of the De Beers diamond dynasty. So in this story, readers are exposed to the blood diamond trade, often questionable acquisition techniques used by big business to control the competition, and the implications that basic lying has on the scientific community. So it was kinda a rough read guys. I love how this series doesn’t attempt to lessen the good and bad effects of actions but instead focuses on how this moment in time resulted in eventual positive developments for society/art/science/safety/technology…and Simone does a wonderful job with this. I still struggled with finishing the book in a positive frame of mind.

The good thing is this story reminded me of perusing the gem stone section of Natural History Museums visited in my childhood. Thinking about museums always makes me happy! And The Diamond Formula pushed me to realize there are aspects of history I still need to explore, no matter how tough the content. Read it, and then go dance in the rain just for the sheer joy of doing so.

Lindsay

The Electricity Fairy

The Electricity Fairy
by Alex Mar

The inspiring true story of Loïe Fuller, a radical nineteenth-century art nouveau icon who turned artificial light into performance art and became the incandescent inventor of modern dance.

In a new era lit by Edison bulbs, Loïe Fuller was the quicksilver that connected scientific and artistic inspiration. In a flurry of shifting lights and serpentine spins, she inspired the earliest films of Georges Méliès and held Jean Cocteau spellbound. She even sought out the Curies for a radioactive showstopper. In this transportive and hypnotic historical narrative, the uninhibited Folies Bergère superstar la fée lumière is finally restored to her shimmering, glorious place in modern history.

The Electricity Fairy is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

I started with listening to The Electricity Fairy, and am not ashamed to say I picked it because I thought it would be about the electricity wars between Edison and Tesla. (Nope…didn’t even bother to read the story summary.) I was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning about the life of Loie Fuller, dancer and harnesser of light. This was a historic figure/story that I knew NOTHING about…I GET TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW! That is why we read nonfiction right?

Loie Fuller, the Electricity Fairy, was a dancer who combined flowing fabric and colored lights to create mesmerizing performances. She was driven by the effects of light and motion, and was innovative in her use of extensive moving light rigs to produce her desired illusions. But The Electricity Fairy covers more than just dance and fancy lighting. This story introduces readers to Marie Currie’s research on radium and Edison’s push towards moving pictures through our artist’s personal association with the scientists. Readers are also provided a detailed description of period artistic movements, with Fuller’s activities highlighting how art mixed with industrial innovation to influence the society growing around the advancements.

The information presented in The Electricity Fairy was well researched and presented in an easy to read format. It is a wonderfully engaging mix of light, dance, and science.

Let me know if you have listened to the Inventions collection and happy reading!

Lindsay

Running Like a Girl

Running Like a Girl
by Alexandra Heminsley

In her twenties, Alexandra Heminsley spent more time at the bar than she did in pursuit of athletic excellence. When she decided to take up running in her thirties, she had grand hopes for a blissful runner’s high and immediate physical transformation. After eating three slices of toast with honey and spending ninety minutes on iTunes creating the perfect playlist, she hit the streets—and failed miserably. The stories of her first runs turn the common notion that we are all “born to run” on its head—and expose the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal.

Running Like a Girl tells the story of how Alexandra gets beyond the brutal part, makes running a part of her life, and reaps the rewards: not just the obvious things, like weight loss, health, and glowing skin, but self-confidence and immeasurable daily pleasure, along with a new closeness to her father—a marathon runner—and her brother, with whom she ultimately runs her first marathon.

But before that, she has to figure out the logistics of running: the intimidating questions from a young and arrogant sales assistant when she goes to buy her first running shoes, where to get decent bras for the larger bust, how not to freeze or get sunstroke, and what (and when) to eat before a run. She’s figured out what’s important (pockets) and what isn’t (appearance), and more.

For any woman who has ever run, wanted to run, tried to run, or failed to run (even if just around the block), Heminsley’s funny, warm, and motivational personal journey from nonathlete extraordinaire to someone who has completed five marathons is inspiring, entertaining, practical, and fun.

Are you wanting a kick-start to a healthier lifestyle? Are you wanting confirmation that you aren’t alone in those awkward first steps? Are you constantly waiting for next Monday to start on your goals? READ THIS BOOK!

I am trying to run more and dream of eventually completing a marathon. I struggle with maintaining motivation, especially when life gets super stressful or busy. As such, I like to read running books to remind me that I am not alone and that there are others out there who have completed the seemingly impossible. (Feel free to peruse my reviews of How to Lose a Marathon, My Year of Running Dangerously, and Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow)

I discovered Alexandra Heminsley via an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Adventure Sports Podcast. She talked about her running and open water swimming journey during the interview. Her frank honesty had me interested in Running Like a Girl; so I picked up the audiobook. (Sadly Audible doesn’t have the UK version where Heminsley reads her own work but it was still well narrated.)

The format is incredibly easy to follow. The first part of Running Like a Girl details Heminsley’s often hilarious running journey. The second shorter part provides a summary of tips on how to pick shoes, run for charity, and just general running tips. Heminsley’s work is honest. She is bluntly open about her experiences, both the good and the bad. She shares her fears of running in front of people, her horribly demeaning first experience buying running shoes, her elation at successfully wrangling her boobs during runs, and the emotional rollercoaster she experienced during every race.

Heminsley doesn’t sugar coat anything. She openly mocks herself for her stubborn refusal to ask for advice. But she also shares the joy of finding strength and confidence with each completed run. My favorite parts are when she talks about meeting new people while running, and talking to runners who have to overcome great physically difficulties just to run. Her experiences provide a glimpse at a positive perspective most modern adults are too self-centered to realize. 

The few complaints I’ve seen can be summed up under the following topics: Heminsley self-focused narrative, her lack of scientific information on running, and the section on running makeup. Yep. There is a section on running makeup. So I am going to address these one at a time.

1.       The summary of the novel tells readers this is the author’s personal running story. Heminsley is blatantly open about her faults and trying to improve them. She berates herself for her own stubbornness, lack of confidence, and fluctuating emotions. This is her story about learning to run and how to be a better version of herself. Get off your preachy soapbox ya negative Nancys.

2.       There are plenty of books out there on the science of running. Running Like a Girl never pretends to be one. Go pick up Born to Run if that’s what you are looking for.

3.       I don’t really wear makeup but I put on mascara every day. I wear mascara to group workouts. And there is nothing wrong with people using makeup to boost their confidence during a race. She shared what had worked for her just in case someone out there could use the information.

If y’all could only see the eyerolls over here! Also, it should be obvious Running Like a Girl is specifically written for a female audience; however, this book is for anyone who has trepidations towards getting out the door on that first run. Sure, guys probably won’t get much from the section on sports bras, but this definitely isn’t a ‘dude bashing’ story. Heminsley talks about all her supporters, both male and female. The best takeaway for anyone reading this book….you can run; all you need to do is get yourself out the door.

This book is the perfect boost for anyone wanting to run, or tackle any exercise. Heminsley quickly points out that it doesn’t just have to be about losing weight but instead promotes exercise as a way to meet new people, potentially help others, and live your best life. Make today your last ‘I’ll wait until next Monday.” Pick up this story and get a needed kick in the butt to do more with your life. Have a great week and happy reading!

Lindsay

Murder on the Home Front

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz

by Molly Lefebure

mothf

It is 1941. While the “war of chaos” rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below.

One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the “horrors of secretarial work” don’t appeal to Molly Lefebure, she’s intrigued to know exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door.

Capable and curious, “Miss Molly” quickly becomes indispensable to Dr. Simpson as he meticulously pursues the truth. Accompanying him from somber morgues to London’s most gruesome crime scenes, Molly observes and assists as he uncovers the dark secrets that all murder victims keep.

With a sharp sense of humor and a rebellious spirit, Molly tells her own remarkable true story here with warmth and wit, painting a vivid portrait of wartime London.

Murder of the Home Front is my first nonfiction of 2019! It is also my first book from my 2018 Leftover List. (the full list is on my 2019 Goals post)

Molly Lefebure is working as a journalist when she is approached by famous pathologist C Keith Simpson in a courtroom. He needs assistance and hopes she is willing to be his secretary. Molly has no intention of being stuck behind a desk taking notes but she can’t say no to the chance of working in the mortuary. Murder on the Home Front is Molly’s account of her years working as CKS’ secretary during World War II.

First, my negative comments. It took me over five months to finish Murder on the Home Front! I typically breeze through audiobooks, but the narrator’s voice was just a tad too lilting for my taste. It still took me a solid third of the book to become invested in Molly’s life primarily because of the high-brow tone of the audio. The layout of the story didn’t help either. The individual stories are presented in a quick sequential orderand they read like mini-chapters within each chapter. This style is awesome for the amount of information presented but these easy stopping points meant I stopped. Frequently.

That’s it for my personal negative thoughts but I noticed some reoccurring complaints from other reviewers and decided to address them too. First: readers need to remember the book was initially published in the mid-50s. I love the tone because it is written from Molly’s youthful view. Her memories haven’t been influenced by subsequent decades of life and life lessons. However, many people considered her flighty because of her nonchalant tone. Look. She is writing about her job; it’s an amazingly cool job but still just a job. She talks about her days the same way any of us would talk about our boring jobs. Second: many people claim Molly comes across as victim blaming. I feel it’s a personal choice to read this view point into Murder on the Home Front. Look, Molly bluntly states that people wouldn’t have been murdered if they hadn’t been wandering around dark streets alone at night or spending time with violent people. That’s true. Her approach is very factual and somewhat devoid of sympathy for the people laying on CKS’ table. Come on true crime fans….you should know this the typical reaction of people who handle this gruesome stuff on a regular basis. 🙄

Murder on the Home Front is an interesting read. I liked Molly. She is a smart, strong willed, confident woman who quickly adapted to her somewhat gruesome position. Her story gives a lighthearted approach to post mortem examinations, a unique view of wartime London, and a personable experience with the changing social roles of the 1940s. Murder on the Home Front needs to be on every true crime buff’s TBR. It’s a fantastic work detailing the ‘back office’ aspect of investigations and the implementation of forensics.

Let me know what you think and happy reading!

Lindsay

No Stone Unturned

No Stone Unturned: The Truth Story of the World’s Premier Forensic Investigators

by Steve Jackson

nsu

A body stuffed in a car trunk swallowed by the swirling, muddy waters of the Missouri River. A hiker brutally murdered, then thrown off a cliff in a remote mountain range. A devious killer who hid his wife’s body under a thick cement patio. For investigators, the story is often the same: they know a murder took place, they may even know who did it. But without key evidence, pursuing a conviction is nearly impossible. That’s when they call NecroSearch International. NecroSearch boasts a brain trust of the nation’s top scientists, specialists, and behaviorists who use the latest technology and techniques to help solve “unsolvable” crimes, no matter how decayed the corpse, no matter how cleverly the killer has hidden the victim’s body. Now, for the first time ever, readers are taken on a fascinating, often-shocking journey into a realm of crime investigation of which few people are aware. Necrosearch’s most challenging cases are described, step-by-step, as these modern-day Sherlock Holmes’s detect bodies and evidence thought irretrievable, and testify in court to bring cold-blooded killers to justice.

July found me craving a good true crime nonfiction read. I had previously enjoyed The Poisoner’s Handbook, and was looking for something that focused on forensic science. But I also wanted a story that covered actual investigations (which is what I was looking for but didn’t get when I read Mad City) I was lamenting my need for a good true crime story to my friend TS Barnett and she suggested I check out No Stone Unturned. She shares my love for true crime and has great taste, so I immediately started the audio version.

I absolutely loved No Stone Unturned! The novel follows the creation of NecroSearch, a group of scientists dedicated to advancing forensic science and investigation. The story is expertly laid out, starting with the development of the ‘pig people’ organization and introducing key scientists and volunteers involved. Jackson outlines the science behind the different fields with include geology, archaeology, entomology, and sloberology! The science is presented in laymen’s terms; keeping the information relatable without utilizing and insultingly dumbed-down approach.

One of the best aspects of No Stone Unturned is the applied use of the science in individual cases. Parker focuses on one case at a time. For each investigation he provides information from the disappearance of the victim, the initial police investigation, the involvement of NecroSearch, and the results of the search. He even recounts the trials of the killers. Each investigation is different and presented unique problems which allowed the scientists of NecroSearch to help return lost loved-ones while also providing new data on developing investigation techniques.

And if that wasn’t already fantastic….the volunteers of NecroSearch are dedicated to working together as peers. They actively avoid egotistical battles and hold law enforcement in high respect. Jackson even shares how the group help each other handle the mental effects of working with violence, death, and missing bodies.

I do not have anything negative to say about the story. The complaints I saw from other reviewers, which are few, is the writing style can be dry and they wished for more details concerning the individual team members. I found the writing to be far from dry, but I did also read the audio version. (It was fantastic and well worth the listen).

No Stone Unturned is a nonfiction work I would happily recommend to anyone interested in true crime or forensic investigation. It provides a surprisingly hopeful attitude to a rather morbid topic. It even managed to bring me out of a frustrating reading slump. Pick it up! And please share your true crime suggestions, since I always need another book to read 🙂

Happy Reading!

Lindsay

The Forgotten 500

The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

by Gregory A Freeman

500

In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped and sheltered for months by villagers behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, this is the full account of Operation Halyard, a story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery.

I like historical nonfiction and I particularly enjoy aviation rescue stories (you may know this if you heard me gushing about Frozen in Time last year.) So of course I was going to read The Forgotten 500. This is the story of Operation Halyard, a World War II rescue of American airmen downed behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. I had never heard of this event and was immediately intrigued.

I have mixed feelings about The Forgotten 500. I enjoyed it. I had never heard of this event and the story has spurred me to learn more about the events occurring in Yugoslavia during World War II. To me this is the most important role of historical nonfiction; inspiring self education on new topics. With that said, I had a hard time finishing the book due excessive idealized sections of politics (a topic I find boring and tedious on a good day).

So lets start with the positive points. I enjoy the flow of the story. The Forgotten 500 is not presented chronologically, but starts with airmen landing in Yugoslavia and then jumps to events that eventually led to the Allied bombing of the county. It was engaging, and Freeman expertly guides his readers through the anxiety of surviving a jump from a downed bomber, the efforts of people trying to escape the country at the start of the war, and eventually the fantastic rescue of over 500 airmen. I even enjoyed Freeman’s brief history of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the development of Operation Halyard. The Forgotten 500 is full of personal accounts from survivors, both airmen and OSS agents. It provides a detailed account of a country and culture of which I know very little, and reminded me there is so much out there I have yet to learn.

Now for the negative points. I always read other reviews after finishing a story, especially when reading historical nonfiction. I like to see what other readers enjoy and don’t enjoy about each story and make it a point to address recurring comments. The negative reviews consistently claim The Forgotten 500 is full of historical inaccuracies. I can not substantiate or disprove these statements as I know very little about Yugoslavian history and had never heard of Operation Halyard before picking up the book. (Here there be SPOILERS) I will state Freeman provides a very one- sided view when it comes to Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic. He is presented as a saint, while Marshal Tito and his group of Partisans are presented in a much more negative light. Little information was given about Tito’s roll in saving American airmen; instead the story is focused on the group of over 500 harbored by Mihailovic supporters. And I was especially confused by a section claiming Partisan sympathizers in England’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) attempted to sabotage the rescue operation on numerous occasions. I need to learn more about these topics.

So do I recommend The Forgotten 500? Yes, but with the following caveat: do your own research. Historical nonfiction is a vital aspect of continual education and I find it imperative that we should always look for all sides of the story. Have you read The Forgotten 500? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow

Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow: Lessons from an Epic Friendship that Went the Distance

by Susan Lacke

Lacke

They were unlikely friends. She was a young, overweight college professor with a pack-and-a-half a day habit and a bad attitude. He was her boss, and an accomplished Ironman triathlete. She was a whiner, he was a hardass. He had his shit together, she most assuredly did not. Yet Susan and Carlos shared a deep and abiding friendship that traversed life, sport, illness, death, and everything in between.

Some times you find yourself reading a book at the perfect moment. Audible recommended Life is Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow last Monday morning. I was sitting in my car, sobbing happy tears, as I finished the book that Monday afternoon. It was exactly what I needed to read.

Disclaimer: there is a good amount of cussing in this book (if you didn’t get that from the title) It doesn’t bother me, but I know some people take offense to this. You now know it’s there.

Disclaimer #2: You will probably cry. This book promises to talk about training for triathlons, but it is so so so much more than that. I promise the tears are good ones.

Now for my review. I needed a motivational read because I’ve been struggling with my own running journey. I’ve been benched because of surgery recovery. A recovery that is much slower than expected and the sudden decrease in physical activity left me feeling down. So I picked up Lacke’s story because it promised humorous motivation.

And it delivered! Lacke’s dialogue is engaging and hilarious. She doesn’t bother readers by laying out her detailed workouts or her meal plans. Instead she talks about struggling through training days, faking her way through buying gear, and the amazing adrenaline driven race days.

Lacke starts this journey as an unhealthy stressed out professor. Her boss, Carlos, confronts her about her lifestyle during a smoke break and convinces her to spend her lunch swimming with him. It’s the kick start to an unlikely friendship, and an unexpected passion for endurance sports.

Readers follow Lacke through her stubborn approach to training, listen to Carlos’ sarcastic words of encouragement, and experience the joy of life endurance racing provides. But we also follow Lacke’s struggle with alcoholism, her fight for self appreciation, and management of the inevitable curveballs thrown by life. This book is the story of Lacke’s friendship with Carlos and how it changed her life.

I don’t want to give any other details away because I feel you’ll get more out of this story if you stumble along with Lacke. I highly recommend it for those needing a motivational pick me up. It’s a solid reminder of how the small things in life can actually be the most important.

Are any of my fellow readers also triathletes? Has anyone else stumbled upon Lacke’s story? Please let me know what you think, and happy reading.

Lindsay

My Year of Running Dangerously

My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan

by Tom Foreman

myrd

CNN correspondent Tom Foreman’s remarkable journey from half-hearted couch potato to ultra-marathon runner, with four half-marathons, three marathons, and 2,000 miles of training in between; a poignant and warm-hearted tale of parenting, overcoming the challenges of age, and quiet triumph.

As a journalist whose career spans three decades, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman has reported from the heart of war zones, riots, and natural disasters. He has interviewed serial killers and been in the line of fire. But the most terrifying moment of his life didn’t occur on the job–it occurred at home, when his 18-year old daughter asked, “How would you feel about running a marathon with me?” 

At the time, Foreman was approaching 51 years old, and his last marathon was almost 30 years behind him. The race was just sixteen weeks away, but Foreman reluctantly agreed. Training with his daughter, who had just started college, would be a great bonding experience, albeit a long and painful one. 

My Year of Running Dangerously is Foreman’s journey through four half-marathons, three marathons, and one 55-mile race. What started as an innocent request from his daughter quickly turned into a rekindled passion for long-distance running–for the training, the camaraderie, the defeats, and the victories. Told with honesty and humor, Foreman’s account captures the universal fears of aging and failure alongside the hard-won moments of triumph, tenacity, and going further than you ever thought possible.

I officially signed up for my first marathon today! 2018 has brought about a love of running, and not surprisingly, a love for books about running. I’m good at combining my hobbies ☺️.

I decided to keep reading running books after finishing How to Lose a Marathon. I picked up the audio version of My Year of Running Dangerously, which is about Tom Foreman’s return to long distance running. Tom Foreman is a correspondent for CNN, but I wasn’t interested in news or politics. I was interested in hearing how he went from a couch potato to running four half-marathons, 3 marathons, and one ultra marathon in one year! My Year of Running Dangerously provided just that!

Tom’s running journey starts when his eldest daughter requests they train for a marathon together. Foreman tells the story of his training, including excerpts of running as a child, his first marathons run in his 20s, and his unintentional loss of the sport after the arrival of kids. Readers follow Foreman as he runs a marathon with his daughter, and then jumps head first into the sport of long distance running.

I absolutely loved My Year of Running Dangerously! Forman doesn’t hold back, providing both the good and the bad of his journey. We hear how running brings him closer to family while simultaneously causing strain in his work/training/life balance. We experience scary training runs, moments of defeat, and painful injuries. We run alongside on fantastic runs, see gorgeous trails, and embrace the feeling of accomplishment. Foreman talks about the people he’s met, details the places he’s seen, and shares the life revelations experienced while running. Plus, the audio book is read by the author, which makes makes you feel as if your sharing running stories with Foreman on a lazy afternoon.

My Year of Running Dangerously was just what I needed as I start my next stage of training. It reassured me that I was not alone in my struggles or joys, and made me look forward to my next race. It’s the perfect read for runners and those wishing to learn more about why people choose to run.

So, expect many more running nonfiction books this year :). And please let me know if you have any recommendations! Happy reading (and running)!

Lindsay